By Kalinowski, Tim on March 4, 2020.
Justice Minister and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer announced in Standoff on Tuesday the province will be contributing $480,000 toward the Blood Tribe Police Service to create five new officer positions on the force.
“Even in these tough (fiscal) times, we are ensuring we have additional resources for police services and for our Indigenous communities across the province of Alberta,” said Schweitzer. “Along with providing more access to treatment, we believe in a balanced approach to drug addiction that includes ensuring police have the ability to target criminals who prey on vulnerable Albertans by selling illicit drugs. This additional funding will allow Blood Tribe police to create five new positions and put those officers where they’re needed most.”
The provincial money will fund 48 per cent of the cost of funding the new positions, and the federal government will contribute the other 52 per cent.
Blood Tribe Police Service Chief of Police Kyle Melting Tallow thanked the province for funding the new officer positions, stating it was no secret the BTPS has been “under-resourced for years.”
“It’s a happy day, but it has been a long time coming,” Melting Tallow told reporters after the announcement on Tuesday. “It has been a struggle, because we do cover a vast area within our territory. But also, it is a strain on our officers. We have such a tragic situation out here, and sometimes they have to take leave themselves; so that means calling other people in to do overtime shifts.”
Melting Tallow said the community’s drug crisis has been all-consuming in terms of police resources the last number of years, and the five new officers, currently getting set to graduate from the Medicine Hat police training program in May, will be added to the front lines to help alleviate the strain on current officers and free up two of those officers to join the Lethbridge ALERT Unit.
Because the Blood Tribe Police Service does not have any annual base-funding guaranteed at any governmental level, and is completely dependent on yearly grants and contributions, Melting Tallow said provincial funding, so far, has only been confirmed for one year to pay for these new officers. However, he stated, the Blood Tribe Police Service is working on a multi-year funding agreement with both the federal and provincial governments.
“From what we know right now, this (funding) is just for the next coming fiscal year,” Melting Tallow confirmed. “There is work going on behind the scenes to try to negotiate a longer-term funding agreement. So that’s where we’re optimistic; that we can have a long-term funding agreement so we know we’re going to have sustainable funding going forward to deal with our issues within our community.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter